Prophecy committee predictions pretty accurate

Release Date: August 21, 2008

PLAINVIEW – Twenty-five years ago, it must have been difficult for students and even administrators to envision what life at Wayland Baptist University – much less the world – would be like in 2008 when the school marked its centennial.

Nevertheless, a group of faculty and staff and one student, student body president Joel Bratcher, put their heads together as the 1984 Prophecy Committee to craft a report detailing what life might be like in the next millennium. Also on the committee were Dr. Bill Hardage, then vice president of advancement; Audrey Boles, then registrar; Eddie Owens, then Director of Public Services; Gary Manning, then head of the Christian Ministries division and professor of Christian studies; and Reta Carter, then assistant professor of English. The group’s report was written in March 1984 as the time capsule was being buried outside Gates Hall marking the end of the 75th anniversary at WBU, both to be opened in 2008.

The report begins by addressing the current situation, beginning with the world at large, in particular the arms race and pending presidential election. Moving closer to home, the committee mentions the “dwindling water supply [which] makes the future of agriculture and its related businesses unclear and chancy” and mentions the changing demography of the High Plains of Texas.

“Change seems the preeminent factor that is observable in 1984, in every facet of American life,” the report reads.

In 1984, the committee noted, the culture is absorbed with instant news, instant entertainment and fast food, and technology abounds, while the family unit is being redefined in terms of marriage and divorce rates and the controversy over legal abortion. Some things mentioned have not changed: AIDS, cancer and heart disease continue to be threats medically, and the “uniform of youth” – noted as the jogging shoe, blue jeans and t-shirt – is still fairly common. Education is under fire now as it was then, with schools under immense pressure to raise competency scores for students.

The committee’s vision of life in 2008 is interesting, as some aspects are accurate and others a bit off the mark, as even they predicted: “You, the readers, will either be amused or impressed by the wide-ranging descriptions of what life is like in your 2008.”

They predicted man visiting Mars with a moonbase, the domination of satellite technology in defense, communication, weather and space exploration, and believed toxic waste would be launched into space in rockets.

On the political front, the group predicted Russia would attempt to take over Iran and other Middle Eastern countries, and they felt international terrorism would have been conquered by 2008. In the United States, they said, dominance in major industries and manufacturing has been lost to Third World countries, and inter-city transportation systems for commuting are new on the scene. Computers have made working from home easier, and robotics are being used regularly to simplify life for the handicapped and elderly and are used on assembly lines to build cars.

They also predicted computers would be used so greatly for communication that the U.S. Postal Service would have decreased loads, and thought the video-telephone would be commonplace in most households.

On the church scene, the committee predicted the church would be a haven of ministry to families, especially given the erosion of the family system, and that it would see a marked increase in the role of women in leadership positions. With the communications advances, the group predicted the church would use recorded sermons and “services” over the computer, with pastors more of discussion leaders than presenters of sermons, and service times would vary greatly from the traditional Sunday morning format.

The prophecy committee turned its predictions to the university itself, envisioning an extensive agricultural program, growth in psychology and counseling programs, growing enrollment and more second- and third-generation WBU students. The last paragraph, however, missed the mark entirely, as the group predicted a men’s soccer program, regular on-campus dances, housing units for retired faculty and staff and a prayer tower in the lawn outside Harral Auditorium.

The report closes by detailing what the two generations share: the need for Christian education, changing social rules and the need to find satisfying and productive work for one’s life.

“All (Wayland’s) emphases in recruiting, through teaching, and through the social milieu offered its students must train young adults to be functional and competent, but more than that, to be fully developed Christian citizens for the 21st century,” the report closes. “Life today and in the future demands complexly balanced individuals.”